Those Dreaded Words:
“I love you but I’m not IN LOVE with you.”
By Fort Fertel, founder of Marriage Fitness
Did your spouse or significant other ever tell you, “I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you?”
What does that statement mean?
A person who says, “I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you,” is making a distinction between 2 different feelings. But NEITHER of those feelings are love!
When a person says, “I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you,” they’re actually saying that I CARE about you but I’m not EXCITED about you.
CARING about someone is a good thing. It’s reflective of CONCERN. But it’s different than love. I care about the starving children in Africa, but I don’t love them without ever having met them.
Being EXCITED about someone is also a good thing. But excitement is different than love. I might be excited to have a relationship with the President of the United States or a Hollywood star, but that doesn’t mean I love them.
While someone who says, “I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you” seems to be making a distinction between “different loves;” in fact, they are expressing their confusion about what love really is. And that’s why they’re having marital problems and maybe even an affair (because who are they IN LOVE with?).
Love is something we articulate in the vocabulary of ACTION. Love is a verb. It’s not a feeling you get from another PERSON; it’s an experience you receive as a result of DEEDS YOU DO for another person.
And those deeds are not a secret. In other words, love is NOT a mystery! There are specific things you can do with your spouse to solve your problems and build love in your marriage. Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws for relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship WILL make your marriage stronger. It’s a direct cause and effect. If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable…you can “make” love.
In my clinical practice, I’ve lost count of the times when one spouse wants the other to change, but the best results I’ve seen have come when I’ve seen a single spouse take the initiative to change his or herself, rather than waiting for their mate to change.
After years of seeing thousands of couples, I have found that marriage fitness works better than marriage counseling. Just as you can’t expect to get in shape with a single trip to the gym, you also unlikely to fix a lifetime of relationship woes overnight. Ideally, it’s best for both counsels to workout together to improve their relationship, but I’ve also seen many Lone Ranger workouts lead to restored relationships.
Very often in the program, someone will say to me, “I love my spouse, but I’m not IN LOVE with my spouse.”
My immediate response is to ask, “Can you list for me 5 ways in the last week that you’ve DEMONSTRATED your love for your spouse?”
I usually hear noise on the other end of the phone; grunts, partial statements, and gasps for breath, but none of what I hear ever passes for an answer to my question.
“I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you” is a cop-out. It basically means that I have no clue how to make a relationship last LONG-TERM so I’m exiting to get high from another short-term romance. But whoever they’re IN LOVE with now will also eventually hear, “I love you, but I’m not IN LOVE with you.”